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#216 Paul Van Doren (Founder of Vans)
November 14th, 2021 | E216

What I learned from reading Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans by Paul Van Doren. 


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The way we deal with hardship is our legacy. You can accept defeat, or you can overcome it.

Quitting Randy's had probably been the biggest stroke of luck in my life. Opportunity is a strange beast.

Whenever a situation went sideways and things looked dire, I always called up my one superpower: focus.

I believe honest self-evaluation and the ability to listen to others has been one of my greatest strengths, one that has served me well over the years. If someone had a better idea than mine, of course I would adopt that. I really didn’t care if I didn’t get credit. I didn’t need credit; I needed success.

The very best thing that occurred during that first decade of Vans was that we truly became a family business. Without exception, family has always been the most important thing in my life.

Most of the kids in the early skater crews came from single-parent households, from the wrong side of the tracks. They were idiosyncratic, creative, independent—they were seen as the “freaks” of the sport. In so many ways, they were our people.

If you do something no one else can do, or do something better than most, the odds are in your favor for success.

Shit happens—it really does. Letting yourself get stuck in it doesn’t do any good. Acknowledge it and then move on. Don’t let it weigh you down—just cope. Tackling things in a positive way will help you succeed more often than not. Shit happens: these two words fully acknowledge the difficulties in life, but you can put them firmly in the rearview mirror, without letting them mess with your head or your path in life.

To me, the more critical the situation, the better I’ll perform. I don’t create clutch situations just to feel the rush—I’d prefer to eliminate risk than encourage it—but I for one have always found defeat intoxicating, especially when it's someone else's. And when it's mine, I can’t say it's ever done anything but make me think smarter and behave differently, even courageously. Hell, it's only after I lost something or when something didn’t go my way that I was afforded the opportunity to shine.

I’ve learned that what makes a successful entrepreneur is the same thing that makes a good skateboarder or good surfer: you need grit and determination to get back up every time you’re knocked off the board.


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